A month ago Iceland’s capelin season looked like a non-starter, with the fleet crippled by a long-running strike by crews and no prospects for any large capelin migration through Icelandic waters. It hasn't worked out quite like that.

An additional research cruise located more capelin, prompting the Minister of Fisheries to jack the quota up to close to 300,000 tonnes, which had the side-effect of injecting new urgency into the negotiations between owners and unions. The ink was hardly dry on the new agreements as the pelagic fleet slipped its lines and headed for sea – in some cases crews were already on their way to join their ships before the final count of votes had finished – and immediately dropped into heavier fishing than anyone had expected.

The high-value capelin roe season went ahead with processing at several locations around the coast as the capelin migrated past the Reykjanes Peninsula and up towards the westfjords, and now the season is on its last legs with the capelin either spawning or about to spawn.

The season has already ended in the Westmann Islands, with capelin landed by Ísleifur frozen at Vinnslustöðin’s factory, alongside capelin roe processed from fish landed by Kap.

According to Vinnslustödin, the capelin vanished on Sunday, by which time pelagic vessel Ísleifur was on the other side of the country off the north coast and managed to finish up with 1000 tonnes that was not suitable for roe but which was frozen instead. Kap was on west coast fishinggrounds and steamed home with 800 tonnes of capelin suitable for roe extraction, bringing this year’s capelin season to an end in the Westman Islands.

HB Grandi’s two pelagic vessels are both landing, Víkingur in Akranes and Venus in Vopnafjörður, and there could be one more trip for Víkingur if the capelin stick around for a few more days.

In the east of Iceland, Síldarvinnslan’s pelagic vessel Börkur has already sailed to start on blue whiting, as has the company’s partner vessel Bjarni Ólafsson, and Samherji’s Vilhelm Thorsteinsson is already busy on blue whiting. Síldarvinnslan’s other pelagic vessel, Beitir, was expected to sail last night.

‘There’s plenty to do ahead of the Icelandic fleet as there’s a big blue whiting quota,’ said Bjarni Ólafsson’s skipper Runólfur Runólfsson as they were steaming off.

‘It’s great to be have so much work ahead of us at the end of a good capelin season. We’ll stop off in the Faroes to pick up our trawl and then head for the west of Ireland. That’s two days’ steaming, 650 miles and there are already Russian and Faroese vessels fishing there. I hear the fishing has been patchy, but good in general,’ he said.

Source: VSV SVN, HB Grandi